In 1989 when he was a sophomore linebacker for coach Curley Hallman at the University of Southern Mississippi, Thad McDowell told a newspaper reporter that when he was a kid growing up in Huntsville, Alabama, his mother insisted that he play two sports in school. I was so hyper that she wanted me to do something else besides football to keep me busy, McDowell said. If I didnt do something else, Id get into trouble. So I played football and wrestled. Clearly, his mom Patricia Ann Drake knew best. An All-City wrestler at 112 pounds at Ed White Middle School in 1983, McDowell went on to become one of the best football players in the history of J. O. Johnson High School. He grew into a punishing 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker and became a ringleader of a team that never lost a city game throughout the mid-1980s. Coach Paul Parvins Jaguars reeled off 11 straight victories his senior year in 1986. That same year McDowell was named All-City, 6A All-State and Adidas All-American. Born at Fox Army Hospital on Redstone Arsenal in 1968, McDowell grew up in Huntsvilles Love subdivision, behind the Northwood projects in the Cavalry Hill school district. His older brother, Tony Drake, introduced him to sandlot football in their grandmothers back yard. Wed play all day from sunup to sundown, McDowell recalled, and I was always the youngest kid. We played against various neighborhoods and projects. All the guys would leave with busted lips and bruised ribs. I loved it. We all had to play every position because you never knew when somebody would have to go out. He remembers getting destroyed one day by Steve Booker, who later played at Butler High and at Alabama. I told myself that someday Id be even stronger and hit harder than that guy, he said. McDowells best sports memory at Johnson was traveling with his coaches and teammates to Cincinnati in 1985 and shocking national powerhouse Moeller High School. We beat the odds and I had 11 tackles that game, he said. After being named All-City, 6A All-State and Adidas All-American as a senior, McDowell signed with Southern Miss, where he was a three-year starter and four-year letterman at linebacker. He finished with 306 career tackles, five sacks and four interceptions. Among his favorite college memories were USMs upset victory over No. 1 ranked Florida State in 1989 and the Golden Eagles upsets of both Alabama (27-24) and Auburn (13-12) in 1990. McDowell, who graduated from USM in 1992 with a degree in management, is now general manager of TM Finance, Inc., in Lawrenceville, Georgia. His family includes his three sons, Dante McDowell and twins Jayland and Justice McDowell; his fiance, Ronnetta Williams, and her daughter, Sade; his brother, Tony; and his parents, Patricia and Rudolph Williams.